How shall you meet me, in the place I call home;
Here – where I belong, my bosom, my throne.
How shall you greet me, upon my return;
With joy and with laughter, or sad tears that burn.
In the morning and in the evening, will you feel me near
I do not sleep, though to rest, I am here.
And so much has changed now that words cannot say,
So quiet, so peaceful, and here I shall stay.
I’ve given my life, I’ve given my all;
My own sacrifice – that others don’t fall.
So how will you greet me, and what will you say;
I hope for a cheer and a ‘hip hip horray’!
their end yet to come.
Living clay in no man’s land,
with blood-shot eyes that stared.
Un-ripened fruit, foul-blasted in perpetual storm,
bleeding their juices, pressed back into their roots.
Their mad, un-natured landscape twisted, torn and wired,
embroiled with iron, and fire, and gas.
What hope, this lunacy? What future?
What lessons still remembered or forgotten?
Boys become men,
and always make the same mistakes.
Take off their boots that brought destruction,
Take away their guns.
Bury them in their innocence,
and taste the guilt.
By F. Philip Holland
As a chaplain with the Army Cadet Force I see myself more as a youth leader in uniform rather than someone who has dealt first hand with the needs of soldiers who have seen military action.
Most of our young people are between the ages of 13 and 18. It occurs to me that many young men will have signed up giving a false date of birth and thus fighting, really, as children. At the time the excitement and possible glory would have had its attractions, and part of our work is to enable the young people to respect not just each other but the weapons with which they sometimes have contact. We encourage them to understand that these things are not toys but weapons of war.
Lord God, we remember the courage and dedication of those, who in past days took to the air, and pioneered the Royal Air Force we know today. Especially we remember the sacrifice of the few for the many in times of war and strife. Grant that, being inspired by their example, we may follow them in their endeavours to work for a world in which peace and justice reign supreme, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I spent six years in The Royal Air Force as a chaplain becoming a Royal Air Force Chaplain at the advanced age of 39yrs.
During my time in the RAF the so called “peace dividend” started to be cashed in, vast cuts in personnel and equipment started to take place and the British forces were being re-roled to be a force of deployment to defend our interests from other threats, much of it perceived as coming from the Middle East. However before I was to be personally involved in this scenario, I received notice after a very few months of being a Chaplain to Northern Ireland and almost as soon as my notice of deployment had “landed on my desk”, the troubles out there and on the UK mainland all heated up again. In 1996 the IRA bombed Docklands in London and The Arndale in Manchester (from which my family narrowly escaped) and a huge bombing of Hammersmith Bridge in London was attempted. Very soon I found myself serving in a very real zone of conflict.
(Poem on the death of the first female soldier in Iraq)
No Amazon, she,
Armed with courage,
this daughter, sister,
Stand still, reflect.
no ill respect.
A warrior, gone.
Surpassed by none.
by F. Philip Holland.
(on a soldier's suicide)
That tranquility you last saw;
leaves, grasses, a wakeful bird,
cool air lifting the darkness,
the old earth rolling, unheard.
That sweet calmness you felt;
trees, river, another dawn,
breeze stirring the stillness,
a weight too long bourne.
That loneliness you knew;
loss, problems, or illness known?
Your bridge linking two worlds:
new; unsure, past; outgrown.
And have you won your peace,
let go the harrowing strife?
Shunning this brief event,
now gained a different life?
Did you know your way,
see an easy ending near?
Losing the dross and pain,
crossed the void to clear?
What’s this short life?
This anxious breath?
This easing bridge
to light, from death?
Are you at peace?
Come answers none;
in shrouds, no sound.
We only ask,
shrug and sigh.
we all die.
F. Philip Holland
“Almighty God, whose command is overall, and whose love never fails, let me be aware of Your presence and obedient to Your will. Help me to accept my share of responsibility with a strong heart and cheerful mind. Make me considerate of those with whom I live and work, and faithful to the duties my country has entrusted to me. Let my uniform remind me daily of the traditions of the army in which I serve. When I am tempted to sin, help me to resist. When I fail, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of Your truth, and keep before me the example of Jesus in whose name I pray.
Christmas 2002 was spent in splendid denial of the fact that British Forces where being drawn into a conflict of others making. 16 Air Assault Brigade (16 Bde) was not on the list to go and so this denial could be bathed in. As the children went back to school, a feeling of unease broke out in the house, which deepened as 16 Bde came into the frame for Op Telic.
The industrial slaughter and horrors of the First World War fills many with particular revulsion and despair. It destroyed much and resolved little. Visits to, or photographs of cemeteries such as Thieval or Tyne Cot just numb the mind, especially when we consider that the vast array of graves we see there are from just one side of the conflict.
In spite of the sheer horror of it all only 16000 conscientious objector refused to fight, and I often wonder what was going through the minds of those in the trenches as they prepared to go over the top. Did any of them question what was happening, I wonder, and would I have questioned if I had been one of that generation?
I am quite sure that I would have simply gone along with it. In the 1950's, as a young National Serviceman, I found myself posted to Malaya to a conflict which took the lives of over 440 British lives, along with many others, and it was only later that I began to question why I had been there and what it had all been for.
So, what are the answers to conflict, if any? Well, certainly the answer is not to forget. We would not be truly human if we forgot the sacrifice of so many.
In the Epistle of James, we are told that conflict comes from within us, although there are other causes such as political greed and economic conditions, but we should do all we can to promote harmony, compassion, love and understanding, and actively proclaim all that by the example of our own lives, and show how convinced we are about the need for an end to all violent conflict.
All we can then do is leave the rest to God.
As a 65 year old retired woman I can now reminisce about my days as ‘wife of’ a soldier. The days of Skype and mobile phones were still the thing of the future so it was a total reliance on the written word and air mail.
My husband did only one four month tour of Northern Ireland in 1974 when we were based in Germany. The children were tots, and appeared to accept his absence, however it was not unusual for him to be away and they would have had no conception of the dangers. We were on attachment to the Queens Dragoon Guards at the time and the support from the regiment was exemplary, along with all the wives who were finding themselves in the same situation. Even so, nothing could take away the worry and anguish I felt, knowing my husband was in a place of conflict. Every day a Landrover would park at the end of the road with the latest post. My heart would sink when there was no mail for me!
With a heavy heart it’s sad to say there were fatalities and casualties, and not every member of the regiment came home. Camaraderie for us was the key, working together and being there for each other. From all the time spent within the military this is the time when friendships grew and deepened and these are the friendships that have lasted until this day.
By Sue Harmer
Northern Ireland 1992
There was more hope in Northern Ireland than any other conflict zone in which I served because the majority wanted peace. Everybody wanted peace apart from the small percentage of the population.
I was dating a Protestant girl from Bangor in Northern Ireland. I picked her up for a date in Belfast and we went through many vehicle checkpoints to get into the centre. She asked me how many checkpoints there were overseas i.e. British mainland – she didn’t realise that this wasn’t part of normal life elsewhere in the UK.
Bruce Stevenson joined the army in 1981 and served with the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment for eight years. He served in the Falklands, Northern Ireland and Cyprus. Bruce joined the police in 2001. He died on duty as a Police Officer at Cotton Lane Police Station Derby in 2013.
By The Revd Jo Whitehead – Police Chaplain
The remarkable and unexpected growth in the popularity of Remembrance events, promoted by the New Labour government at a time of intense debate about national identity, has startled those of us who were expecting Remembrance Sunday gently to pass away. Moving the two minutes’ silence back to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, rather than the nearest Sunday, has had an effect not solely explained by Iraq and Afghanistan. The First World War, as well as being the starting point for our rituals of remembrance, still seems to define them.
Christopher Cunliffe, Archdeacon of Derby
Ken Miller’s mother died of cancer when he was eight years old. He was brought up by his father, a former professional boxer, and his older brother Charles. Ken and Charles both joined the Royal Navy, Ken signed up in 1955 at the age of 15 and served for 28 years.
Ken served on board HMS Llandaff. On the return from the Far East he received an exceptional recommendation and was promoted to officer rank.
During the Falklands War of the early 80’s, Ken, then a senior lieutenant, was appointed to an Admiral as his Staff Logistics Officer. He personally felt that this war should never have been started. Many died but the war was over in a few months. On the very day Galtieri attacked the Falklands, April 1982, Ken was leaving HMS Hermes for an Admiral’s staff appointment – fate had him in the best ‘job’ – as the Admiral’s Logistic Specialist for the War.
A year after the Falklands War Ken’s resignation from the service, which had been accepted but deferred as it was not in the best interest of the Service to lose him at that particular time, was officially approved. 1n 1983 Ken sold his flat, married his partner, Alma, and fulfilled his ambition to move to Tenerife and open the first modern health and fitness club.
Ken returned to England after nine years and is a regular member of the Sunday morning services at Derby Cathedral.